Embracing Innovation in Soccer: The Technology Adoption Dilemma

Soccer Field with Technological Elements

In the dynamic world of professional soccer, the integration of innovative technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a topic of increasing interest.

Read more: Embracing Innovation in Soccer: The Technology Adoption Dilemma

A significant study, “Preserving the legacy – Why do professional soccer clubs (not) adopt innovative process technologies? A grounded theory study,” by Ralf Plattfaut and Julian Koch, published in the Journal of Business Research, Volume 136, 2021, delves into this vital aspect.

Understanding Technology Adoption in Soccer

The study aims to unravel the complexities surrounding the adoption and use of innovative process technologies in professional sports, particularly soccer. Despite the clear benefits of digital transformation, professional sports, including soccer, seem hesitant to fully embrace these advancements. The research provides an in-depth analysis of the drivers and inhibitors influencing this decision.

Methodological Insights: A Tale of Two Clubs

The researchers adopted a grounded theory approach, examining data from two German professional soccer clubs – one from the Bundesliga and one from the 3. Liga. This comparative study offers a unique perspective on how clubs at different levels perceive and integrate technology.

Key Findings: Balancing Efficiency and Supporter Sentiment

The study reveals several factors influencing technology adoption in soccer clubs. Expected efficiency and effectiveness gains, perceived ease of use, and perceived positive market pull are known drivers in technology acceptance literature. However, the study introduces two novel constructs: perceived positive market pull and perceived negative supporter perception. The former relates to external pressures from sponsors and competitors, while the latter concerns the fear that increased digitalization might alienate loyal fans.

The Impact of Market Pull and Supporter Perception

Understanding the balance between market pull and supporter perception is crucial. Clubs are caught in a dilemma: while the need to stay competitive and modernize through technology is clear, there is also a deep-rooted fear that too much digitalization might disrupt the traditional supporter experience. This delicate balance is a key factor in the decision-making process for adopting new technologies.

Implications for the Soccer Industry

The findings are significant for the soccer industry. They highlight the importance of carefully weighing the benefits of technological advancements against the potential impact on supporter relations. Clubs need to strategize their digital transformation in a way that enhances efficiency without compromising the traditional values and experiences cherished by fans.

Why This Research Matters

In an era where technology is rapidly reshaping industries, understanding its impact on traditional sectors like sports is vital. This research provides valuable insights into the unique challenges faced by soccer clubs in adopting new technologies, offering a roadmap for successful integration that respects both efficiency and tradition.


“Preserving the legacy” by Plattfaut and Koch is a pivotal study in the intersection of sports and technology. It sheds light on the nuanced decision-making process in soccer clubs regarding technology adoption, emphasizing the need for a balanced approach that respects both the modern imperatives of efficiency and the traditional values of supporter culture. For anyone in the world of professional soccer, these insights are not just thought-provoking but critical in navigating the path to innovation.


lattfaut, R., & Koch, J. (2021). Preserving the legacy – Why do professional soccer clubs (not) adopt innovative process technologies? A grounded theory study. Journal of Business Research, 136, 237-250. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2021.07.024.

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